When British suffragettes were released from prison, they got medals.
In 1919, Marcel Duchamp drew a moustache and goatee on a postcard of the Mona Lisa, renamed it with a bawdy French pun L. H. O. O. Q., and called it art. Half a century later, he framed an unmodified Mona Lisa postcard and named it L. H. O. O. Q. Shaved.
In 1990 a British Airways plane heading to Spain had a windscreen malfunction mid-flight. The captain was sucked out of the gap, but a flight attendant caught his belt and the plane landed safely with the captain stuck halfway outside.
George Forster was executed for murder in 1803. Later that same day his corpse was dancing, thanks to Luigi Galvani’s nephew.
Vietnam is the second-largest producer of coffee in the world because of a crisis in 1970s East Germany.
For more than 1700 years, mithridate and theriac were Europe’s ultimate medicines. A concoction of up to sixty-four ingredients – including cinnamon, turpentine, and poppy – they were supposed to neutralise any poison or plague.
António de Oliveira Salazar served as prime minister and dictator of Portugal for 36 years. Following a head injury he was removed from office, but no-one told him and he died two years later still believing himself in charge.
Italian publisher Franco Maria Ricci, inspired by fabulists Jorge Luis Borges and Italo Calvino, built the largest maze in the world.
The ruler of Medieval Venice was chosen by an exceptionally complex ten-step process of alternating random lots and elections.
In 1922 violinist Lev Tseitlin founded an orchestra according to Soviet principles of collective responsibility: it had no conductor.
The body of famed astronomer Tycho Brahe was dug up twice (in 1901 and 2010) to find out what killed him. The conclusion: he died of excessive politeness.
Winston Churchill invented an adult romper suit and then wore it everywhere during World War II.
The classic horror film Nosferatu was nearly lost forever because of Bram Stoker’s widow.
Philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote a seminal text on education and raising children. He also abandoned five of his own children soon after their births.
The national canal network of Britain powered its Industrial Revolution, then fell into disuse, and then rose again in the late 20th century.